The new group is sending the message that it’s OK to be queer or gender divsere and Buddhist, writes Sydney Star Observer editor ANDREW M POTTS.
Rainbodhi is a new community group for LGBTIQ Buddhists living in Sydney launching in late November at the Erskineville Town Hall.
Rainbodhi aims to bring Sydney’s queer and trans Buddhist communities together to develop spiritual friendships and share their experiences of being LGBTIQ and Buddhist.
Speaking about the need for a Buddhist LGBTIQ community group, Buddhist monk and Rainbodhi founder Bhante Akaliko Bhikkhu said one of the reasons for the group’s formation was the so-called religious freedom debate taking place in Australian politics.
“After enduring the painful public discussion for the marriage equality postal survey in 2017, we are genuinely concerned about our community’s well-being and loss of legal protections,” Bhante Akaliko said.
“We definitely don’t want to see any discrimination against LGBTIQ human rights in the name of religion. Spirituality is an intrinsic part of being human. It should be a source of connection and wisdom in our lives, rather than division and despair.
“Rainbodhi’s message is that it’s OK to be queer or gender diverse and also be a Buddhist. You don’t have to choose between these two parts of yourself. We want our Rainbodhi community to know that they are welcomed, accepted and loved for who they are. Everyone deserves love and compassion. These are fundamental Buddhist values.”
According to the 2016 census, Buddhism is the third largest religion in Australia and has grown enormously in the last few decades.
The three major traditions of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, are practices by people who come from cultures from across the Asian region.
The spread of Buddhism to Australia has also led to a wide interest in the broader Australian community about meditation retreats and mindfulness programs which are often popular with LGBTIQ people who are attracted to Buddhism’s non-judgemental approach to sexuality and gender diversity.
Acknowledging the diverse backgrounds of Sydney Buddhists, Bhante Akaliko said he wanted to use the group to unite Buddhists from all traditions, as well as people who are new to Buddhism and meditation, or who just have an interest in spirituality.
“We also welcome people from all different religions, cultural backgrounds and other identities,” Bhante Akaliko said.
“Our aim is to create a safe and supportive environment for like-minded people to practice meditation, understand Buddhist teachings and develop spiritual friendships.
“No religion should preach hate or harm others. There have always been queer and trans people in religious life and it’s important for us to acknowledge that publicly, with pride.”
Speaking about Rainbodhi’s upcoming launch event, Bhante Akāliko said people could expect “guided meditation, a panel discussion about spiritual self-care, and the announcement of a fundraiser for an international LGBTQIA rights group that we want to support”.
“We’re also planning fun, interactive workshops for attendees to help us shape Rainbodhi’s future. We offer meditation and Dhamma discussion in a safe, supportive environment. Come along to chill out with meditation, hear authentic Buddhist teachings, and develop spiritual friendships with like-minded people.
“We are non-sectarian and welcome everyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality or faith.”
The name Rainbodhi combines two words, “rainbow” representing the diverse spectrum of the LGBTIQ community, and “bodhi” the Buddhist concept of Enlightenment.
Rainbodhi’s inaugural event will be held on Friday 29 November from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at Erskineville Town Hall, 104 Erskineville Rd, Erskineville. The venue is fully accessible and close to public transport.
For more information, look for Rainbodhi on Facebook or visit www.rainbodhi.org.